Okay I cannot prove that the ancient Hebrews did not have coffee mugs. But I do know that if they did they would not put Bible verses on them the same way that we do.
If I paint Philippians 4:13 in eye black and go out and play a tremendous game of church league softball, you know the statement that I’m making. I’m saying “I can do all things [like kick your tail in softball] through him who strengthens me.” End quote.
That is not the case with the way that the New Testament writers would quote the Old Testament. When Jesus says from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” He is reciting a Psalm and calling to mind that entire Psalm. In the same way when Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4 and says, “the righteous shall live by faith” he is thinking of the entire argument of Habakkuk.
This should revolutionize the way that we study our Bibles. When you read something in the New Testament (or even in the Old Testament) that has an allusion to a prior passage these guys aren’t just proof texting; they are proof-storying. They are thinking of the entire context of the passage that they are quoting.
What this means for Bible study (and for sermon prep for us preachers) is that when we discover a passage that has an earlier allusion we had better go back and pick up the entire argument of the passage cited. We do that because this is what the inspired author (say Paul) is doing when he is quoting it. He’s not just reminding us of that sweet passage on our coffee mug, he’s telling us a story.
The best example of this is probably Jesus’ use of Psalm 22 from the cross. Psalm 22 was a lament for the innocent sufferer. It perfectly fits Jesus’ situation. When He cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He is thinking of the entire Psalm. A Psalm which actually points to the vindication of the sufferer.
Does this mean that Jesus was not forsaken by the Father? Not necessarily. Or does this mean that Jesus does not feel the full weight of an innocent one enduring suffering? Absolutely not. If anyone could rightly cry out Psalm 22 it is Jesus. And he feels the full weight of every sentence. But we should remember that it’s not only the cry of dereliction (v1) that Jesus feels, but also the notes of hope that resound throughout the passage.
Jesus will be vindicated. He knows this. While he might feel abandoned—and the full weight of abandonment—He is also trusting in the God who vindicates the innocent. He knows the end of the story.
When he cries out Psalm 22:1 he isn’t doing that because he remembered that verse in AWANA and feels like that verse fits. Nor is Matthew putting it on his lips because he thinks it fulfills verse 1 of Psalm 22. Jesus is crying Psalm 22:1 (and Matthew frames his 27th chapter around that Psalm) because he is telling the story of the entire Psalm.
When you see a verse quoted don’t assume that they quoted verses the same way that we do. Consider the entire context of the Old Testament passage that is quoted. And pack all of that into the one verse that they are quoting. When someone that lived in the age of Jesus quoted a verse they were thinking of the entire passage and it’s argument. We should do the same.